Faculty explore ideas at the Cataldo Project

Sustainability: Keeping On Our Toes

The Cataldo Project and others like it are made possible in part by support from the Fund for Gonzaga, comprised of gifts from committed Zags like you. Thank you!

What does environmental sustainability have to do with theatre and dance? At Gonzaga University, plenty. Support for the Fund for Gonzaga has enabled the Cataldo Project, an initiative focused on encouraging the integration of issues relating to sustainability in courses of all disciplines, to have an impact on more than a dozen faculty members and over 1,400 students — including those in theatre and dance.

“God has entrusted the world to us,” said Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical letter on Care for our Common Home. The Holy Father continued, explaining how Saint Francis of Assisi serves as an inspiration for all to witness “how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”

Seven years prior to the publishing of this encyclical letter, Gonzaga faculty members Monica Bartlett (psychology) and Brian Henning (philosophy) partnered with then President Robert Spitzer, S.J., to identify projects and opportunities at the University to further the cause of sustainability and responsible stewardship of our environment. Their initial efforts eventually led to Gonzaga hosting the first regional Sustainability Across the Curriculum conference in 2012. Through the workshops at this conference, a core group of diverse faculty came together, helping to create what is now known as the Cataldo Project.

2017 Cataldo Project

Participants in the Cataldo Project 2017: Top to bottom/left to right: Cathy DeHart (accounting), Brianna Dori (engineering), Joanne Smeija (chemistry), Noralis Rodriguez-Coss (women and gender studies), Ginger Grey (English), Kim Pearson (law), Jessica Kiser (law), Kem Gambrell (leadership studies), Eric Ross (chemistry), Joshua Schultz (engineering), Tim Weidel (philosophy), Alex Maxwell (engineering), and Brian Henning (philosophy and environmental studies; faculty fellow for sustainability)

Named for Gonzaga University’s founder, Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J., and led by Brian Henning, the Cataldo Project uses workshops, seminars and other programs to help develop faculty environmental awareness and skills so that they may adapt current courses to include relevant sustainability concepts. Throughout the academic year, the Cataldo Project provides support and access to resources, information and environmental experts. For the past two years, the Cataldo Project has welcomed faculty from biology, business, chemistry, engineering, philosophy, sociology, criminal justice, theatre and dance, and political science. Involved faculty members have adjusted their curricula, having an impact on more than 1,400 students annually.

“I ask myself, ‘how can I live my life today to cause the least disruption to our ecosystem?’,” said Kayla Kassa (’17), a recent civil engineering graduate who experienced courses taught by faculty taking part in the Cataldo Project. “I am making changes now because I believe that living a sustainable life is our duty to this earth.”

“To be an informed citizen, you have an obligation to have knowledge around what future we are bringing upon ourselves,” added GU finance major and recent graduate Brad Dale (’17).

Cataldo Project Faculty at Lake Arthur

Faculty from Cataldo Project 2017 went on a guided walk to Lake Arthur with Dr. Hugh Lefcort (biology) and Dr. Greg Gordon (environmental studies). They learned about the history of the pond from when it was just a bend in the river, to a mill pond for the McGoldrick Lumber company, which sat on its banks, to the river-fed “lake” that it is today. In addition to the environmental and cultural history of the space, they also focused on how the space can be used as a living laboratory. For instance, students study water quality and have begun the floating islands project.

The impact on faculty has been equally impressive. Sociology professor Joe Johnston explained, “My experience with the Cataldo Project inspired me to collaborate with a faculty member in biology/environmental studies to develop a research proposal investigating how status, identity and campus life influence scientific understanding.”

Rhonda Young, an associate professor of civil engineering at Gonzaga saw the effects of the Cataldo Project reaching into senior design project proposals and increased interest in the transportation engineering course, which had been revised to incorporate the theme of sustainability.

Leslie Stamoolis, of Gonzaga’s theatre and dance department, took part in the Cataldo Project workshops and felt strongly about incorporating sustainability concepts into the costume construction course she teaches.

“I found myself desiring to make changes in my shop,” she said. She began researching and exploring environmental considerations for the types of fabric dyes and makeups the department uses, eventually publishing an article on the subject in the quarterly journal, Theatre Design and Technology. She also engaged students in a project in which they considered their “fashion footprint,” encouraging them to think about how their decisions can affect our world.